IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 126 S. Ct. 514 (2005)

Non-exempt meat packing employees of IBP, Inc. (the world’s largest producer of fresh beef, pork and related products) filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the employees who alleged that they should have been paid for the time spent walking between the changing area where they “donned and doffed” their protective gear and the production area. In another case, the First Circuit held that similarly situated employees were not entitled to be compensated for the time spent walking from one area to the other. The United States Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment and reversed that of the First Circuit, holding that “during a continuous workday, any walking time that occurs after the beginning of the employee’s first principal activity and before the end of the employee’s last principal activity is… covered by the FLSA.” However, the Court held that the time employees spent waiting to don the first piece of protective gear is a “preliminary” activity and, therefore, is not compensable under the law.